Empty space in a design is useful. Think of it in this way: If there was a room in your home where every inch of space was taken up by a piece of furniture, you would be unable to navigate through or use the room. Empty space between furniture is required for the room to be useful. This same concept applies in communication design.
What is white space?
Empty space, otherwise known as white space, is anything not filled by active content. It includes gutters between columns of text, the page margins that frame the design, the spaces between words and paragraphs and the intervals that separate elements from each other. White space streamlines the design and makes it more inviting.
White space serves physical, aesthetic and psychological purposes. Visually it separates information and increases overall legibility. Because it unclutters a page, the design becomes easier to navigate and requires less effort to understand. This increases reading speed.
Aesthetically, white space supplies crucial support to the composition and enables the design to communicate. Its simplicity complements complex areas. Emphasis is created when white space is used to frame important elements, leading the reader’s eye to important focal areas. White space helps balance and quiet the entire design and adds visual appeal.
Without appropriate use of white space, one thing flows into another with no relief, ideas merge and the message becomes confusing. When that happens, communication ceases and the design fails in its purpose.
Psychologically, we require white space for comfort’s sake. It helps us understand what we’re seeing because it separates information and helps create hierarchy. Without appropriate use of white space, one thing flows into another with no relief, ideas merge and the message becomes confusing. When that happens, communication ceases and the design fails in its purpose.
Is white space always necessary?
There is a time and place for visual clutter. When white space is reduced in favor of more content, the design conveys a sense of energy and excitement. Organized clutter is appropriate in many cases (the operative word here being organized). However, a design can be too busy, and we will actually describe it as being loud. No one likes to be shouted at, not even in visual terms. A design that lacks the relief of white space has too much going on in it and can be cacophonous and irritating.
Although considered empty, white space is not always void of content. Color, texture and images can function as white space, taking on a supporting role in the design and pointing to the active content.
Asking your designer to fill every inch of a layout with active content can mean your message may get lost in clutter. Instead, trust your designer to choose where and how much white space to use, and your message will be communicated.